Capsule Review: Safety Not Guaranteed, Ex Machina, Jurassic World

Recently, I began observing a self-imposed rule on my viewing docket: designate one film genre per month. My previous post did have common denominator but I officially started last month by settling into the contemporary contributions to the pulpy world of science fiction. While it’s true that most of this genre’s concepts such as time-travelling, artificial intelligence (AI) and genetic modifications are explored to either progressive or regressive effect, some tend to hurdle what is expected (which is besides stirring one’s imagination). In concrete examples, the personal experience is the center of gravity in SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED which sidelined its sci-fi component by pulling its characters into an emotional orbit that revolves around disillusionment and dreams. Meanwhile, shivers ran down the robotic spine as an AI’s agency is tested and fought for control in EX MACHINA’s dangerous allegory about the future machinations of men who treat themselves as gods and saviors, only to be eliminated in the end. As for the hyped reopening of JURASSIC WORLD, it does invite nostalgia but the pure wonderment is extinct (am I the only one exasperated by the CGI combustion?). My unpopular opinion could be preceded by the name of its main attraction-turned-destruction, but leaving the iconic theme park behind has strengthened my belief that the unmatchable delight and beloved memories of the original film is definitely worth preserving.

@@@@@

.

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (2012)

With her works in Parks and Recreation and The To Do List, Aubrey Plaza is the unofficial ambassador of the modern-day skeptical yet pragmatic youth who (in this case) kindles the humble adventures of director Colin Trevorrow’s debut comedy. Darius (Plaza), her boss-writer Jeff (Jake Johnson) and a fellow intern pursue an odd classified ad for their magazine article, only to find themselves in an eye-opening expedition that evokes the feelings of the past and abandons the existing pretentions for a dogged trip to the future. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED’s attention-grabbing premise is subversive of its overall payoff. Stowing its sci-fi element during the rest of the film for an astonishing finale, this indie comedy finds its charm on the earnestness of its characters who are caught up with the disillusionment on their present conditions. Darius, Jeff and the bizarre ad author Kenneth (Mark Duplass) are, in varying degrees, suffering from nostalgia who find ways to relive the past and resolve to carry on with their lives. The disenchantment Darius particularly experiences is recognizable that she is easily empathized as her conviction grows in finding something (or someone) she could believe into. Jeff may or may not end up publishing the piece about a man looking for company in his time-travelling mission but SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is itself a satisfying human interest story, both candid and contemplative, with the right amount of incredulity, inquisitiveness and individuality that builds for a refreshing sci-fi cause.

Rating: 3.5/5.0

.

EX MACHINA (2015)

Fashioning itself as a foreboding sci-fi parable (ex. Under the Skin), EX MACHINA is a gripping and though-provoking thriller that envisions the fight for control over machines, both by men and themselves by means of AI. First-time director Alex Garland creates an arresting atmosphere on the external and in-house shots that diffuses the film’s intellectual moodiness. As a rare minimalist (per the genre’s convention), the focus is heavier in establishing its ambitious ideas to the setting (the confined areas of technological invincibility/downfall with the brewing tension among its characters) than the computer-generated effects, which is more compelling to the astute viewer. The audience adapts in the film’s futuristic world through Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson), a young programmer premeditatedly chosen by the eccentric and capricious company CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac) to perform the Turing test to his latest humanoid robot, Ava (Alicia Vikander). With the programming sourced from billions of accessible and hacked personal information, the questionable ethicality of Nathan’s research and development dawns in Caleb, which is further heightened by his burgeoning mutual understanding (and unsolicited warnings of) with Ava. Unraveling to its startling climax, EX MACHINA becomes more than the exploration of the authoritative relationship between man and machine. Ava is an ingenious metaphor for a female creation grasping her agency and utilizing it for survival, that turns out to be both humanizing and terrifying. It’s a threatening reality that Garland convincingly suggests, along particularly with Vikander on her sharp sensibilities as the robot in observation. Ava may have outmaneuvered her creator and savior but the real danger is weighed between man’s abusive and controlling genius and a machine’s unpredictable recognition of its potentials. EX MACHINA is the latest speculative fiction that proves to be more fascinating than it looks, and at the same time, is a subtle cautionary tale on the recipients of trust. Knowledge is power but betrayal, as Caleb and Nathan fatally learn, could render that power useless.

Rating: 3.5/5.0

.

JURASSIC WORLD (2015)

The Jurassic Park franchise gets a new lease of life in the hands of Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed!) on the passably entertaining yet thematically deficient fourth motion picture (with creator Steven Spielberg’s blessing). After the unmemorable second and third installments, JURASSIC WORLD, to its credit, is a welcome rebirth that relishes the glory of the first film with its new cast led by the always likable Chris Pratt. The extinct species’ return to the big screen is inevitable given the advancement on filmmaking’s technology and the latest Jurassic film follows the same principle by creating genetically-modified dinosaurs of the comparative degree. But what is bigger is not always better and while the visuals are a definite enhancement, JURASSIC WORLD doesn’t capture the genuine curiosity, wonderment and exhilaration of the series’ alpha. As Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) says in her businesslike tone, kids nowadays are not impressed by dinosaurs anymore. On the contrary, the film doesn’t impart a satisfying postscript apart from the fleeting adventurous thrills and comedic timings. Despite the cast’s representative roles and the establishment of corporate greed and responsibility, JURASSIC WORLD is hollow on character development and moral emphasis which is a criminal undoing of a monster movie (i.e. the metaphoric superiority of Garett Edward’s Godzilla over the human populace). Pratt earns a few moments in brokering the interesting bond between man and dinosaur but such relationship is only exploited for narrative functionality and not on the meaningful acknowledgement of respect in the laws of nature. Trevorrow sneaks in little pleasures but he tumbles in translating the more relevant themes in a bigger and more technical scale. JURASSIC WORLD, nevertheless, is still a pleasurable adventure blockbuster but this time, it’s better to compare it with its league of big-budgeted flicks than the unparalleled original.

Rating: 2.5/5.0

.

Next Sci-fi attraction: Sam Rockwell and the marvelous rock that is MOON

Capsule Review: Jane Eyre, Run Lola Run, Martha Marcy May Marlene 

It’s about time that I finally get to write about female-centric films, particularly these three titles that are captivating and stimulating in their own strange ways. A gothic period drama, a foreign thriller, and a psychological drama, each film probes the female psyche with stylish finesse that creates canvasses of individualism in poignant, kinetic and disquieting atmospheres, respectively. These films are also notable in spawning a fountain of new talent: auteur directors and auspicious actors in their flourishing filmographies. More than what meets the eye, these eponymous characters are kindled in varying dark undertones; their complexities shed in an intriguing new light that undresses a deeper characterization of women in cinema.

@@@@@

JANE EYRE (2011)

Before True Detective and the upcoming Crimson Peak, Director Cary Fukunaga and Mia Wasikowska teamed up in the moody yet mesmerizing onscreen adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s literary classic. Oozing with passion and pulsating with conviction, Fukunaga’s JANE EYRE revives the fictional heroine with gothic intrigue and unflinching grittiness that shape Jane to be the redeemed protagonist she truly deserves. The tribulations she experienced in her formative years have steeled her as a woman of agency that is tested when she becomes a young governess to the ward of the enigmatic Mr. Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender). Wasikowska ideally captures Jane’s willowy physique and youth but her acclaimed performance is anchored deeply on her mature beliefs and impassioned declarations that reverberate to the core of her character. She contains the emotional flare of Jane to a nuanced effect, much like Fukunaga who deftly infuses gothic and supernatural influences in a romantic period drama and remain consistently perceptive throughout the film. Fassbender fills in the role of Mr. Rochester with charismatic mystery, breathlessly piquing the audience’s (and Jane’s) curiosity about his identity and secret. Judi Dench also stars as the benevolent Mrs. Fairfax. JANE EYRE is palpably fervent both in its feminist nature and sensible commentary on its narrative setting, thus stirring itself as an empowering and potent film, not just among the earlier cinematic versions of its source material but also in the history of period adaptations.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

.

RUN LOLA RUN / LOLA RENNT (1998)

Transported to a world where fate and willpower collide, RUN LOLA RUN’s tenacity is one-of-a-kind; an experimental showcase of mixed art whose thematic strength comes from the unwavering determination and stamina of its titular character. With only 20 minutes to fulfill a call for help, Lola (Franka Potente) runs along the streets of Berlin, carrying with her numerous possibilities in her brief social interactions. RUN LOLA RUN toys around the casual dynamics of cause and effect with fortitude as the main variable; thus surprising in its unnatural execution of three scenarios, albeit three runs that Lola undergo to achieve the best possible outcome. Despite following the same route, the film becomes unpredictable on the obstacles which Lola encounters differently. Through her agility, persistence and resourcefulness, she becomes an unlikely heroine to cheer for. RUN LOLA RUN may be uncanny on presenting how willpower could win against chance. Perhaps this is what the film suggests; a philosophy on how destiny and determinism plays and duels in infinite circumstances and what prevails in the end is the matter of one’s consciousness, which this German thriller has vividly and effectively depicted.

Rating: 3.5/5.0

.

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (2011)

Elizabeth Olsen makes a startling debut as a young woman who escapes a cult and struggles back to normalcy in Sean Durkin’s harrowing psychological drama. Stripping its lead star of naivety for a revealingly complex role, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE unmasks the workings of a cult through the broken and manipulated mind of Martha (Olsen) who reconnects with her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), after abandoning the abusive cult ran by its beguiling leader, Patrick (John Hawkes). Implied to have a troubled life before joining the group, the mystery behind Martha’s two-year excursion is illuminated through flashbacks that maliciously blur her adjustment to the normal life. As the camera captures in cool yet murky colors the questionable daily routines of the cult, Martha accustoms herself to the blind beliefs Patrick instilled on his followers which rationalizes the abnormal nature of their household. But the real challenge is grasping Martha’s behavior whose damaged personality makes her an ambiguous yet affecting character that Olsen outstandingly pulls off. She shows an overwhelming emotional complexity that grounds the film’s authenticity. With a solid supporting cast pulling Martha’s mindset in a tug of war of false and true realities, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE is an intimate yet vicious dip in the mind of a victim, a prey psychologically vexed by a predator. Closed by a vague cliffhanger, the film maintains its perplexity since the beginning, but with a more troubling afterthought on Martha’s impassiveness towards her future than her tormented past.

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Film Diary: Closer (Tribute to Mike Nichols, Part 2)

CLOSER (2004)

Love and lies are what makes the world go round in CLOSER, Director Mike Nichols’ adaptation of the award-winning stage play that dips into precarious corners of romance among its four characters who are driven of passion, jealousy, and deceit. The film is teeming of discourse and introspection on its central idea – love plagued by infidelity and dishonesty that are eloquently conveyed in the modern-day setting. It explores the dynamics of its beguiling quartet through the permutation of impassioned pairs, contesting over their notions of love and relationships. The intriguing premise around its striking ensemble may have drawn viewers closer, but the quarter of the whole is more satisfying than the overall. For all its grand romantic rhetoric, CLOSER is more of a collection of vain abstractions than an empathic character study. The passion is palpable but impersonal, thus not transcending to where the medium intends it to be.

vlcsnap-2015-04-19-15h01m28s250

No matter how personal its themes are, CLOSER tends to feel aloof. Maybe because of how imposing yet unambiguous its proposition is. How untruthfulness can destroy relationships is the universal truth after all, but the film attempts to overcomplicate itself that the tension doesn’t feel organic anymore (that could spell the difference in effectiveness between on stage and onscreen). The experimental couplings don’t necessarily achieve the desired compelling results but two actors in particular are revealing that they upstage the other two. Natalie Portman in her surprisingly provocative demeanor (before Black Swan) and Clive Owen in a commanding supporting role (both were Oscar-nominated) brought their characters’ passion as close as it can get to the audience. The actors may have stood as prop for the film’s subject matter but Portman and Owen are more affectingly flawed than Julia Roberts and Jude Law. It’s not their fault anyway, as the romantic drama is weighed down by imbalance that favors its contrived emotional milieu than the essence of its characters.

vlcsnap-2015-04-19-15h17m48s95

Though CLOSER is more engrossed in idea than the persona, it is articulate on the pronouncements of love, lies and lust and becomes persuasive of the world it presents. The dialogue is eloquent regardless of its agitated, sensual and somber nature as the script is also penned by the same playwright, Patrick Marber. Being the director who observes the truthfulness of human emotions, Nichols doesn’t shy from the rare, blistering romantic drama that CLOSER successfully channels. His realism shuns the melodrama with the ample amount of frustration and insecurity that sharpens the bluntness of each line. While the frank conversations maybe devoid of metaphoric significance, the film compensates through the sober strums of Damien Rice’s “The Blower’s Daughter” that opens and closes CLOSER in similar scenes with Alice Ayers (Portman) as the only redeemed character. Her disarming beauty, stubborn precocity and envied youth are somehow objectified that sets the story in motion. But her entanglement with Dan (Law), Anna (Roberts) and Larry (Owen) was, for what it’s worth, settles her in the most resilient position. And she does say the most concise break-up line in history.

vlcsnap-2015-04-19-14h17m50s203

A romantic roundabout that speaks the malice of love, CLOSER is more observing than feeling. The film’s objectivity on love and its unattractive dimensions are baffling, considering how fundamental the supreme emotion is to the existence of its characters. Nichols’ second-to-the-last film showcases one of the most depressing insights on love… but parts with the importance of loving one’s self. How can someone love if he/she is incapable of accepting his/her true identity and banishing his/her insecurity? (At least that’s how I grasp the film’s less self-absorbed message.)

CLOSER is an inviting romantic drama whose payoff deviates from what was anticipated. Love should bring people closer, not farther. But perhaps it’s the film’s intention to create such scenario to ponder the consequences… With that, I compromise.

RATING: 3.0/5.0

Film Diary: The Graduate (Tribute to Mike Nichols, Part 1)

I could only say little about the renowned director Mike Nichols who had long been making inimitable films decades before my ordinary existence. His understanding of the human ethos is directed through the intimate exploration of the many faces of tragedy, be it the perfectly recognizable post-college malaise in THE GRADUATE and the treacherous trials of love in CLOSER. These two flicks are quite seductive on their own; the former famously identified by its iconic quote and the latter through its quartet of attractive leads. Nichols is also notable for selecting the felicitous accompanying folk music that enriches the overall cinematic experience. Without further ado, here are my takes on two of Nichols’ mainstream films.

@@@@@

THE GRADUATE (1967)

vlcsnap-2015-04-18-13h04m44s155

Hello darkness, my old friend…

In describing coming-of-age films, ‘timeless’ comes into mind when the movie is still ripe of its emotional resonance, years since its release. The genre’s potent ability to evoke such feeling and memory makes the metaphysical bond with the film more personal. It’s not just by recognizing the emotive gravity of that moment, but also finding one’s self in that scene at one point in a lifetime.

If there’s a film that accurately captured a moment in my life, it would be Nichols’ Oscar-winning film (as Best Director), THE GRADUATE, starring a gangly and fidgety Dustin Hoffman who finds himself lost post-graduation. Simply put, this coming-of-age film perfectly understands and embodies the empty void the ex-student feels after finishing one’s education. It’s the only movie that articulated excellently the existential crisis I felt after graduation. What do I do with my life after finishing school? How do I begin the rest of my life after completing the only thing that I’ve been doing since kindergarten? THE GRADUATE doesn’t grill its lead character about philosophical and radical rhetoric fitting for his scholarly standing. The young, promising intellectual introduced as Benjamin Braddock was weathered to become uncertain and unguarded whose compulsiveness to evade his career indecision took him off the road. The ending may not be the most optimistic but it is realistic. Awkwardly funny yet affecting of its youth’s cynicism and idealism, THE GRADUATE is consistent in evoking the authentic malaise that people who were once in Benjamin’s shoes had felt, including me.

vlcsnap-2015-04-18-13h33m41s114

First meeting.

Benjamin’s infamous affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) becomes his main diversion during his post-collegiate and pre-occupation existential limbo. What follows was a whirlwind of events that brought out Benjamin’s assertiveness from his timidity. The essence of coming-of-age films is rooted on the self-discovery and personal growth that bloom from life-changing decisions of its precocious and/or impetuous young characters. Benjamin wouldn’t recognize the man he had grown at the conclusion. However, his neutral impression in the last scene finds him on the same page in the beginning, haunted by uncertainty.

THE GRADUATE is a poignant splice of life easy to identify with. The feeling of ambiguity, anxiety and apprehension altogether simmer into the vulnerability of not knowing what to do in the future. Amidst the troubles on the heels of his recklessness, Benjamin discovers passion in pursuing what he wants and fights for it in the end. While the film is ambiguous on the regret over his climatic choice, the ending establishes the necessary maturity of his character existing in the permanence of uncertainty. THE GRADUATE is sympathetic on his predicament but it also emphasizes the inevitability of growing up (making more informed choices as the first step). The fear of what the future could bring can’t be overturned and Benjamin realizes it in the end. All he could do is be committed to his life-changing decision.

vlcsnap-2015-04-18-13h43m32s131

Benjamin (Hoffman) catching a break.

Remarkably blending with Benjamin’s personal journey in THE GRADUATE is Nichols’ fine choice of folk music from Simon & Garfunkel, whose quintessential melodies foster the film’s soul. Comforting yet brooding of the lead’s problematic situation, “The Sound of Silence” plays as Benjamin arrives from the airport; his uneasiness already palpable and the same song lulls during his nightly rendezvous with Mrs. Robinson. “Mrs. Robinson” is an ode to the movie’s ageless and most famous pop cultural reference. “Scarborough Fair” bookmarks Benjamin’s change in priorities as dictated by his heart.

Timeless and endearing, THE GRADUATE is one of those films that nurtures the being. While it led me to look back to my unemployed days/post-graduation days worried from purposelessness and failure, it also inspired me to look ahead. It’s a scary, uncertain tomorrow but the only direction for the graduate is forward. Speaking for every graduate, I‘m entitled to make mistakes, as long as I learn from it and use them to become better version of myself.

No more turning back, okay?

vlcsnap-2015-04-18-15h00m50s192

P.S.

Now I know why Summer from 500 Days of Summer cried. I didn’t cry anyway, but I felt what she felt. And so should you.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

UP NEXT: Why “Closer” makes me glad I’m single.

Film Diary: Interstellar, Gone Girl (Part 2)

GONE GIRL No other sentence in Gillian Flynn’s novel is as foreboding and encompassing as “There’s a difference between loving someone and loving the idea of her.” It highlights a distinction between perception and reality, and what can be perceived is not always the truth. Sometimes, it takes knowing someone to his/her marrow to ascertain the real person in front of you. He/she could be playing other people or playing against you – a sneaky role-playing game Flynn creates in an ugly and unwinnable duel of marriage. Set in the reverberating milieu of economic recession and made bitterer by the poisonous wordsmithery of its engrossingly hateful characters, GONE GIRL breathes the bruising nastiness of relationships and deliberate manipulation of the charismatic that can either lead to self-preservation and self-destruction. Flynn weds the ideas of irreconcilable personalities and psychological gimmickry in her two beguiling characters that fascinatingly embodied the fact and fiction of their contrived dilemma. The literary and cinematic medium worked hand-in-hand in enlivening Flynn’s twisty matrimonial tableau, which are reminiscent of the little, inside jokes soulfully binding Nick and Amy. Amidst the prevailing cynic heartbeat and loathing personas, GONE GIRL is a compulsively consumable work of fiction whose ferocious spirit is raw and recognizable in real life – all the more irresistible and mesmerizing to its audience, readers and film-goers alike.

@@@@@

Nick (Affleck) giving a speech before the vigil for his missing wife.

I spent months dodging spoilers before finally seeing the DVD and though I have an idea of the twist halfway, I am still astounded of Fincher’s latest auteur. On its own cinematic existence, GONE GIRL engrosses with its menacing atmosphere shrouding the disintegration of marriage as provoked by its brilliantly acted, convoluted characters while being shaped splendidly as a savory mystery-thriller in its pre- and post-production components. There are just so many aspects to rave about, not to mention the themes (which I’ll tie to the book discussion later on). Between the animosity of its married duo and their willful deception to the media frenzy that they ignited, GONE GIRL is fundamentally, a story about bad people whose his and her versions of the true story are unreliable but irresistible – like any domestic drama hoi polloi feast but made more sophisticated to the senses.

Pike as Amy Elliott-Dunne

Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) is the latest, memorable onscreen couple whose relationship becomes the subject of Fincher’s stylish scrutiny. Affleck’s turbulent past romance enabled him to be strangely comfortable in his character’s indecisiveness, insensitivity and obliviousness who is constantly pelleted due to his tactless behavior in his wife’s disappearance. Carrie Coon as Margo, Nick’s twin sister, is affecting and tactful in the allegations against her brother. But ultimately, GONE GIRL is owned by Pike whose portrayal of Nick’s calculating, duplicitous and psychopathic better half is the vicious heart of the film. Pre-Fincher, Pike is a perennial supporting player whose radiance in her poised, learned but tamed roles don’t go unnoticed. But GONE GIRL finally let her loose; a revelatory showcase of her jarring capacity as an actress that could squirm her Bond Girl guise. Pike becomes the epitome of an Ice Queen; the coldness condensing in her conniving looks and her undeniable beauty unwarranted of the gritty and ghastly allure she exudes in the movie’s shocking moments. She is one of the indispensable elements that make GONE GIRL darkly enthralling. The rest is expertly delivered by Fincher’s team by their profound and visceral grasp of the source material.

“This man may kill me.”

Creating the mood for a mystery film is a meticulous ploy. But the fiduciary connection with Fincher is robust that GONE GIRL is no less gorgeous on design and reminiscent of the perturbed photography of Zodiac with heightened trepidation through unconventional decibels. The serenity of the environment captured in an ominous glow is disquieting as the supple camerawork immerses terror at Nick digesting the malevolent surprises Amy had in store for him on their fifth wedding anniversary. Before plunging to the alternate accounts of the Dunnes on page, GONE GIRL’s editing faithfully doesn’t spoil the book’s narrative structure and provokes the revealing twists and turns that make the film vividly entertaining. Enlisting Trent Raznor and Atticus Ross for the film’s original score proves to be part of Fincher’s radical film-making as their nonconforming music is vital to the movie’s DNA. The sonic output is a reflection of the apprehensive atmosphere – the placid suburb and the Dunne’s genuine romantic foundation heard in the soothing, minimalist symphonies; only to be infringed by distressing electronic abnormalities as the suspicion grows stronger and the mystery becomes more precarious. To name a few, Amy’s unyielding determination races in “Technically Missingwhile the eerily relaxing “Sugar Stormrelishes on the Dunne’s courting period. A horrifying accompaniment to an equally horrific scene, “Consummation” warns of the horror of Amy’s devious plan to Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris) and “Like Home” is a futuristic, hazy, relaxing tune to Nick and Amy’s telling resolution where the resounding anxiety is there to stay in their inescapable marriage.

Don’t they look harmless?

Kicking off as a mystery, GONE GIRL settles as a psychological thriller through the mind games it poses among its characters and audience. Punishment, pride and power over each other have kept Nick and Amy together even if they are apart. The film also throws a shade on journalistic sensationalism that the Dunnes’ utilize for their benefit. Who couldn’t resist a story of a beautiful, intelligent, known woman who went missing on her wedding anniversary with hints of foul play and was tragically, seemingly pregnant? Or a repentant husband talking to his wife through millions of viewers who has then learned that the media is as malleable as the façade he hides from the incriminating evidences against him? The frenzied coverage is as unreliable as Nick and Amy that the truth is tangled with deceit. GONE GIRL is also a daring and provoking machination of gender issues and while Nick’s emasculation and Amy’s misogynist’s motives raise controversy, the film (which I repeat and firmly believe) is centered on two bad people that happened to not reach their intended objective (the dissolution of their marriage) despite their pure intention. Nick and Amy bring out the best and worst in each other; like any other married couple. It’s just so happens that they’re bad people and maybe that’s the reason why they deserve each other.

RATING: 4.0/5.0

Film Diary: Interstellar, Gone Girl (Part 1)

Damn. It took me almost five months to write about two of my favorite films in 2014. Supposedly they are to be classified under “Awards Circle” but given the disappointing turn-out of this year’s Oscar nom–

Why do they have to be validated by awards anyway? Interstellar and Gone Girl are spectacular in their own way; two dark horses prancing in a cinematic year befuddled of conventional biographies and pretentious fictional personalities. Most of the Best Picture nominees are based on a person but these two films in particular are based on an idea which definitely has its intriguing way of piquing one’s curiosity. Both are genre-films that the Academy typically overlooks but they are a must-see for everyone’s viewing pleasure, not just for the Nolan loyalists or mystery-diggers and/or miserable-avenging wives. Detractors are common, but in this case, are hyped on their misdirected attacks of alleged illogical plot holes and biased misogyny – all the more making these films thrilling to see. I’ve come to love the imperfections Interstellar and Gone Girl are speckled of, but those don’t lessen their value as absorbing, mesmerizing and though-provoking films of recent memory.

@@@@@

INTERSTELLAR

A three-hour expedition of mankind’s last refuge for survival, INTERSTELLAR is Christopher Nolan’s most ambitious and personal craft that may arrive highfalutin with its cosmic conquest bounded by emotional gravity, but the overall film is not to be defined by its disproportionate narrative fragments. An epic space opera immersive of exhilarating visual effects, INTERSTELLAR creates an alternate world where the astonishment of what is beyond the living planet and the imagination is beguilingly stunning, foreign and perilous.

Here’s another film (succeeding 2013’s behemoth Gravity) that pulls off another argument on why it should stand out and matter as the line between science and fiction blurs ominously. More than the underlying theme of preserving one’s existence during the ever-changing global landscape, is the universal message of hope and love that buoys INTERSTELLAR from the impartiality of its genre. The outer space is a peculiar podium for a father-daughter story but it’s the key to the film’s coherence in depicting love as an equally formidable force along with the unfathomable time and immense space. It takes a visionary to propel such auspicious story and Nolan goes for the challenge, along with its charismatic ensemble led by Matthew McConaughey as the former NASA pilot forced to abandon his children for a space mission with a bleak chance of return. It’s in those moments of doubt the film assures that love is as binding as gravity and as critical as time – the complex factors fuelling this one-of-a-kind intergalactic and interpersonal adventure.

Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain also star as Amelia, Cooper’s determined shipmate; and Murphy, Cooper’s daughter whose radical scientific knowledge and personal memories prior to her father’s departure were established to unlock the narrative loop that spans dog-years and speeds in wormholes. Some viewers may be dogged in burrowing the film’s disputed plot holes but in my opinion, it’s defensible for the film to not overwhelm itself from its fictitious galaxy, nor succinctly solve the mystery of space travelling which in reality hasn’t even been deciphered and accomplished. Nolan has a penchant for creating a unique mythology for his films and INTERSTELLAR exists in an intriguing astronomy that calls for an admiration on the filmmakers’ dedication and passion in conceptualizing a stellar visual and intellectual experience for its perceptive viewers.

Cooper and younger Murphy (Mackenzie Foy)

Given the standards of a Nolan film, Christopher Nolan outdoes himself in terms of thematic scale and graphic set that stretch to the metaphysical elements of space, orbiting at the center of the undeniable pull of love presented by the film as universal as the governing incomprehensible principles of the galaxies. INTERSTELLAR affirms that such human virtue is as vast and compelling as the entities beyond us. It doesn’t require the audience to believe on the pronouncement; rather, they are inherently released into unabashed tears, especially in the post-apocalyptic future complicated by the mortal component of Murphy’s longing and frustrations on her father and the ‘almost’ mission failure of Cooper and co., where hope and love are the last two things we can only cling to.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

UP NEXT: Crazy, compulsive things married people do in “Gone Girl”

Capsule Review: You’re My Boss

It’s difficult to not compare the indie darling That Thing Called Tadhana from the mainstream YOU’RE MY BOSS; but since both were directed by Antoinette Jadaone, the two films become a case study on how romantic comedies are treated depending on the scale of production. YOU’RE MY BOSS is no fate but pure formula that Star Cinema applies to the genre. But Jadaone manages to make do of the platonic-turned-romantic relationship between Georgina (Toni Gonzaga) and Pong (Coco Martin) who performed the serviceable humor and somberness that their characters require. Like Tadhana’s land-based travel, YOU’RE MY BOSS follows an intimate and transformative flight of its two leads, in this case, two work colleagues tasked of a marketing pitch to a Japanese investor for their airline company, Skyjet (one of the film’s unabashed but narratively coherent product placements). But while Tadhana relishes on its contemplative journey, YOU’RE MY BOSS’ unhurried pacing has been predetermined to a happy ending. The usage of the typical romantic formula forsakes the element of surprise in developing a subversive love story, which the film falls trap of. So where does Jadaone’s style manifests? Cutting the chase on exposition, she resorted to playful character moments and discreetly illuminating scenes to establish Georgina and Pong’s growing closeness, even if the actors don’t possess the ‘spark’ in jumpstarting their romance.

Despite the backstory, Georgina and Pong don’t match the emotional depth of Tadhana’s Mace and Anthony but it proves to be informative on their motives for self-preservation. The characters, however, are familiar of Gonzaga’s and Martin’s roles in past projects that are made blatant by their self-deprecating laughs through sarcasm and lisp. Gonzaga once again plays an intensely career-driven and fashion-savvy adult still pining for her ex (Starting Over Again) while Martin lets himself loose as a naive but not-to-be misjudged promdi (from the province) who undergoes a closet overhaul anew (Maybe This Time). Their burgeoning attraction intersects with the film’s allegory on honesty that makes YOU’RE MY BOSS more than the average rom-com by taking the initiative of incorporating a simple yet solid overarching non-romantic theme. The film is also chiding and conscious of technology’s role in building one’s online personality that contrasts the actual identity and acknowledging its existence as a means of communicating complicated feelings that are more conveniently said online or through text. YOU’RE MY BOSS’ premise isn’t the most interesting and ingenious starting point (playing make-pretend then unveiling their true selves) and it loses unpredictability in the process; nor does Jadaone make an impression in her venture to mainstream film-making. But it’s not entirely her fault, but perhaps, the bosses’.

Rating: 2.5/5.0